Saturday 31 March 2007

5. How Many Aircraft Carriers? - Sion Jobbins

In an article in the current issue of the Cambria magazine, Sion Jobbins tries to answer David Williams' question put to Plaid Cymru Candidate Bethan Jenkins on BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye program "how many aircraft carriers would an independent Wales have". We are grateful to Cambria and to Sion Jobbins for allowing us to reproduce this slightly extended article.

The article has been broken into 5 segments. This is the 5th and last instalment. The first may be viewed here, the 2nd may be viewed here, the 3rd here, and the 4th here.

by Siôn Jobbins


And what of David Williams’s aircraft carrier conundrum? Well, again it depends how a particular government prioritises its spending but let’s put it like this. The cost of an air-craft carrier is expensive – the Chinese are commissioning one for $362m which would be about half the Welsh Military’s annual budget but the US Navy’s Nimitz class carrier costs a staggering $4.5 billion. There are only 10 states world-wide which possess air-craft carriers and so to answer David Williams’s question, no, it’s not likely Wales would have an aircraft carrier

So, to conclude. The more one looks at the facts rather than the clichés and prejudices, the idea of a Welsh independent military force is not only possible, it’s actually the most sensible and a cost effective option.

Look, four things to keep in mind.

Wales could have a viable defence force, in line with other forces either of neutral states or NATO members for a smaller percentage of our GNP than our contribution to the UK force.

Furthermore, without the UK’s illusions of grandeur and supposedly ‘special relationship’ a Welsh force would not be involved in so many military conflicts that are both expensive in terms of cost and lives. A Welsh defence ministry could opt-out of the expensive contribution towards the re-commissioning of nuclear Trident sub machines or may wish to pool its military contribution and capability – on its own terms.

An independent Welsh force would not be starting from scratch either. Not only would it build on centuries of Welsh military knowledge and pride but under the Vienna Convention on Successor States 1983, Wales, as a successor state to the UK following independence, would be entitled to its corresponding percentage of moveable assets (tanks, aeroplanes, ammunition) and immovable assets (military bases etc).

That means, as Welsh taxpayers have contributed to the UK’s military expenditure then some 4% of those military assets would come under Welsh control. For instance, the Royal Navy in 2007 consists of 88 vessels (including 1 air craft carrier in reserve). The independence settlement may mean that Wales would get 3 or 4 vessels … or even, horse-bargain and go for the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier to answer David William’s question. The same principle would apply to the air service and army.

Another more elusive, but not less important point is that of Welsh prestige. For the first time since the days of Glyndŵr and the Age of the Princes in the 12th and 13th century, an ambitious soldier could climb to the top of the armed service within Wales becoming Chief of Defence Staff without leaving his homeland or having a conflict of loyalty. This would be a badge of a ‘proper country’ – a country that can offer its citizens the broadest possible careers within her borders, culture and principles.

Welsh identity would not be confined to one ‘accepted’ notion of Welshness but would encompass all aspects of Welsh expression and ambition. For the first time in centuries, Welsh men and women of all ethnic and racial backgrounds would fight Welsh wars on Welsh terms as Welshmen under a Welsh Chief of Defence Staff. There’s the incalculable moral and psychological effect of seeing Wales and Welshness not as badges of a weak, defeated nation, but as a nation with arms, a nation, which, if need be, could defend itself – a nation which would deserve to have the Red Dragon as its symbol.

Were the Welsh language to be employed as a practical part to the force (as a some-time medium of instruction lets say), the effect would be as astounding. For a language unaccustomed to such a setting it would be as liberating for the language as for the Shettle Jews seeing a Jew on horseback. The language of sedate eisteddfodau, worthies and good little children would have a muscular strength that it has largely lost with the demise of the heavy industry Welsh-speaking working class. The whole effect of an independent Welsh force would put Welsh political and cultural identity in a field it has never been. No more a nation chasing hand-outs but a nation of diplomacy; no more the ‘ci rhech’ (lap-dog) yearning for recognition but a moral nation ready to make moral commitments.

Plaid therefore needs to decide if it is really a pacifist party or not and if so put it to a vote at its conference. If it is not a pacifist party it needs to discuss the implications of independence on the military so that its own candidates don’t go into firing line of the forthcoming election or the next with no intellectual defence. Having you own military capability does not make a nation a war-mongering state it means that a state can chose which wars it wishes to fight - and which ones it doesn’t. Without its own military answerable to Welsh priorities, Harry Webb’s words will always ring true:

"Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a clown
Taffy fought for every land except his bloody own"


Anonymous said...

Great posts. But on another note, could the administrator of this blog PLEASE do something about the text? Green on green is really really hard to read. Im visually impaired and I often have to skip most of the content because it's just too damn difficult to read. Black would be good (but not white!)

Bonheddwr said...

Wedi gwneud y lliwiau ychydig yn dywyllach. Ydy hyn yn help?

I've darkened the colour of the text, does this help?

Anonymous said...

Perffaith! :)